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Sifre, Südirak © Carabinieri T.P.C. Italia
Sifre, Südirak © Carabinieri T.P.C. Italia

Nippur, 2000-2001 Annual Report - The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago

"One site in particular, ancient Umma (modern Tell Jokha, about 50 km southeast of Nippur) was clearly being butchered, judging by the number of tablets from there that were showing up in London. When the magazine Natural History decided to do a feature on the damage to Iraq's antiquities, it sent a photographer to Iraq. She asked my advice on what to photograph, and I urged her to make a special effort to go to Umma. The Directorate of Antiquities did get her there, with a strong army escort. The damage shown in her photographs was dramatic, with one large area of more than two acres dug down more than 6 m. The Antiquities officials with her also took photographs and were able to use them to gain funding for a salvage operation. Working under extreme conditions, with heat, dust storms, lack of water, and the constant threat from illicit diggers who had to be chased off the sites by the army, the archaeologists have been working for two solid years at four sites - Umma, Umm al-Agarib, Tell Smid, and Bismaya (ancient Adab) - all of which are to the southeast of Nippur. One of the sites, Bismaya, was excavated in 1904/05 by Edgar James Banks for the University of Chicago. Bismaya has been badly damaged, and the Directorate of Antiquities worked there for a few weeks, calling off the effort because of extreme sand storms. But at the other sites, they have made major exposures.

I was able to view their work when I was in Iraq in March for a conference on Five Millennia of Writing. At Umma, alongside the huge illegal holes, the archaeologists are exposing large buildings of the third millennium BC. More impressive, however, is a huge building with baked brick walls that feature niches and buttresses and a plan that seems to me to be a combination of temple and palace architecture. Dating to the Ur III period, when the kings were considered divine in their lifetimes, this building is probably similar in function to the Palace of the Rulers at Tell Asmar, dug by the Oriental Institute in the 1930s. On another part of the site is a pottery-making complex, with potters' wheels still in place and kilns that are unusually well preserved." (op. cit.: McGuire Gibson: Nippur, 2000-2001 Annual Report, in: Oriental Institute Annual Reports)


Fortsetzung:Tell Shmid ...


© Ulrike-Christiane Lintz, 01.03.2007